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Bass Biology
Soft Plastic Jigs - The Bait for all Seasons
By Wayne Gustaveson

September/October 1998

After futilely beating the water to a froth with surface lures, the grim realization sets in that today, we have to go down there where they live. Bass are just not coming up to put on the delightful air-show acrobatics that we had hoped for. Dip into the tackle box and guess what bait comes out first. I can't speak for you, but in my hand I have a soft plastic jig. There are some other possibilities but for me its just a matter of determining what size and color of jig and what weight head to use to complete the presentation. The soft plastic jig catches more bass for me than any other lure. Old reliable continues to perform time after time. 

Now what color? In the spring trying to imitate a crayfish is a good starting point. In the fall maybe a shad color is best. Bait color definitely attracts interest, but movement and behavior are equally important in actually fooling the fish. Plastic jigs are a package deal with color, size, action and presentation equally important. What really happens is that the fish sees and feels the bait in the water and then natural curiosity takes over. Fortunately, bass are more curious than a pup with baby teeth trying to decide what to chew on next. 

Springtime is marked by a slow metabolism on the part of the fish, cool temperatures, overcast skies and scarcity of food. Fish are trying to get active, move shallow and find nest sites. A soft plastic jig fished on the bottom fits right in, fulfilling the needs of the bass. Normal presentations place it near the bottom, where the bass is spending resting and searching time. The slow moving jig matches slow bass movements induced by cold temperatures. Plastic jig body colors that are associated with natural foods such as crayfish or panfish complete the package, making it a desirable morsel ready to eat. End result is a pickup by one of the better quality fish that are more aggressive and the first fish to become active in the springtime. Soft plastic jigs are great spring fishing lures.

Summer finds fish diving deeper to beat the heat. There is a lot of food with crayfish and forage fish hatching out. Bass are warmer and therefore faster moving, full of energy and always on the move, ready to eat or chase at a moment's notice. Food is available on the bottom and swimming in the open water above. The wider variety of food items available leads to a wider acceptance of plastic body colors. Color and movement attract fish from longer distances. The bait may be held in the mouth longer in warm water, but a bait that fails to pass the taste test can still be rejected by bass in a matter of milliseconds. Those baits that offer a taste of salt, crayfish or fish are often held longer by the fish, allowing the angler to tune in and set the hook. 

Fall is harvest time, food is abundant and bass are gorging themselves prior to winter. The soft plastic jig still works since it can be fished shallow or deep, close to the bottom or at mid depth in the water column. Fish are willing to move maximum distances between feeding opportunities and preferred temperature zones. A bait bounced on the bottom still attracts attention from bass looking for crayfish, while that same soft plastic jig swimming rhythmically back to the boat is enticing to bass looking for suspended bait fish in the water column. The soft plastic jig is the most versatile bass lure that I have found. It works in any season. Adding a plastic skirt and a double tail grub make the bait fall slower when a slower presentation is needed. A heavy head and single tail make the bait zip through the water when a bait that mimics a fleeing forage fish is called for. A heavy lead head can be used as a fish call by bouncing the head on a rocky bottom, creating a noisy disturbance that can draw curious fish to the plastic bait. A light head on heavy line can make the jig semi-buoyant when the most subtle presentation is needed. 

Bass seem to have the same impression. Plastic jigs account for the majority of sport-caught bass. This is based on creel studies performed as a part of my duties as a fisheries biologist. The success comes as a result of the great variety of sizes, colors, presentations, and techniques in which plastic jigs can be used. This bait is the "real deal", ready for any situation that the angler can discern. Just use your imagination, a soft plastic jig, a little knowledge of what the fish want and the recipe for success is there.

Want a sure thing? Forget it. That doesn't exist. But the closest thing to it in bass fishing is a soft plastic jig.

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